Are you constantly living up to other people’s expectations? Do you feel like you’re trying to please others and compromise being who you really want to be? Then, read this post to find out what’s God’s better solution for you and how I’ve battled this habit in my life.
While driving my car I often look into my rear-view mirror to check if there’s no queue of cars behind me. I’m a cautious driver and I follow the speed limits. That doesn’t make everybody very happy, because I slow them down, at least that’s what I think.
If I see that there’re cars behind me, I blame myself for not driving well (read: fast) enough. As a result, I may adjust my driving – drive a bit faster, even if I’m already driving at the speed limit, or not slow down as much as I would usually do on the next turn, so those behind me can think I’m a confident driver.
I’m putting myself at risk, only to make sure that others are pleased and think well of me. Then I look in the mirror again and… there’s nobody behind me anymore. I was adjusting my driving only to realise that those I’d adjusted it for, aren’t there anymore! They’ve turned somewhere else and went their own way leaving me disappointed and thinking that my effort isn’t appreciated!
Do you behave similarly? Do you want to please others in different situations? Then read on to find out God’s truth about it.
Road to destruction
While on the road it might not have a lasting impact, if I follow the pattern in other areas of my life, and I quite often do, it may become destructive. In different situations, I change my behaviour just a bit and feel unhappy with myself but know that I’ve pleased others. As on the road, in life, they often go their own way unaffected, but I feel dissatisfied and useless.
Constantly adjusting our behaviour to others’ (not even to their expectations but to what we think their expectations are) results in us not being ourselves anymore, and what’s even worse not being who God created us to be. It’ll eventually drain you. If you blame yourself every time you don’t meet people’s expectations, you won’t feel good. You’ll be ridden by guilt. You’ll constantly feel disappointed and you’ll lose the real focus of your life.
Not the best strategy for life, huh?
Think for a moment about the reasons behind this behaviour? Do you want others to like you? Want to feel better? Do you have low self-esteem and are trying to prove something?
For me, it’s wanting to please others and feel accepted, feel like I’m one of them. I think that if I do, what I think they want me to do, they’ll like me more and see an interesting person in me. The truth is the opposite – only by being your true self, who God created you be, you’ll attract people.
But still, it’s not about attracting people by being who you are but about pleasing God by being whom He made you to be. If there’s anybody you need to look ‘interesting’ to, it is God.
Being yourself brings God the glory
God created each and one of us in the most unique way possible. There’s no other Joanna. My appearance, experience, skills and other things are absolutely unique and are in me to bring God the glory. They’re here, in this specific time and place, to fulfil the purpose God has for me. And the same applies to you. It seems obvious, but we need to be reminded of it time and time again. Do you know the quote from Oscar Wilde? “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” It couldn’t be truer when it comes to God’s vision for our life.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on, what we now call Palm Sunday, crowds welcomed him. They were cheering him. They loved him. And less than a week later they… crucified him. If Jesus did what pleased people, there wouldn’t be any hope for you and me.
Be like Jesus. Be yourself
Do you know why on the pages of the Bible Jesus sometimes seems rude or unapproachable (is it just me)? Because, while on earth, He was so focused on doing His Father’s will, he didn’t want to be side-tracked. He knew that the task He was given wasn’t an easy one. If he allowed himself to follow people’s feeling and opinions instead of God’s unique plan for him, the humankind would be lost in darkness forever. He was himself. So, one dimension of following Jesus is to be who you’re in God and following His good and perfect will specifically for you.
Obeying God or doing his will isn’t a high thing reserved to those ‘in ministry’. Everybody can obey God’s will daily by listening to His voice and being yourself.
If you know you’re doing what’s right, playing by rules, have a control over the car of your life, don’t look into your rear-view mirror. You’ll only be trying to please people who are no longer there. Your only audience to please is God. He’ll always be with you and wants to get the best out of you, not put pressure on you to fulfil expectations that don’t exist.
N.B. Since I’ve first realised this behaviour in my life, I started making changes. I now force myself not to look into the rear-view mirror while driving. If I know I’m driving to the best of my abilities and according to the rules, that’s enough.
In everyday life, when I look back over the last couple of weeks, I realise that I haven’t been thinking about this too much because instead, I was myself. I was closer to God. Not because of my strong will but because, by God’s Holy Spirit I understand this isn’t the right thing and if replicated in other areas of life, it causes unnecessary pain. I’m pleased and not tempted to look to others to please them instead of pleasing my one and only audience – God.